Jan Adriaans, Mercedes Azpilicueta & John Bingham-Hall, Adam Basanta, Paul Elliman, franck leibovici, Janneke van der Putten, Martin Riches & Tom Johnson, Urok Shirhan, Ho Tzu Nyen, Jasna Veličković, Suzanne Walsh, Geo Wyeth, Katarina Zdjelar, and curators Kris Dittel & Jelena Novak
Post-Opera explored timely questions about the voice. The human voice has been central to our psychological and social understanding of the self. The voice is also at the heart of our definition of citizenship, as having the right to vote means having a voice in society. Hence, the voice is intimately entwined with what counts as being ‘human’. Yet not all bodies are equally seen as ‘human’ and allowed to have a voice. This begs the question: What kind of voices are recognised as such within our society? And what are the possibilities for other voices to be heard?
Technological developments also shift the ways in which we look at bodies, voices and identities today. As we are increasingly surrounded by technology and artificial voices, new questions emerge: In what ways do such disembodied voices affect our understanding of what constitutes a voice? And how do such voices gain presence?
Insights from opera
The exhibition took contemporary postdramatic opera as its inspiration. There is hardly any other genre where the voice is more essential than in opera. Yet in discourse about opera, the singing body was long overlooked as a meaningful element. Postdramatic opera engages in a reinvention of the body-voice relationship. It uses technology to alter voices or to break the seamless connection between singing body and voice, thus stretching the borders of the body and the voice and of the opera genre itself.
Post-Opera presented a mix of visual artists and composers, installations and live performances, vocalists stretching the possibilities of the human voice and singing machines.
Participating artists and composers
Martin Riches’ ‘Singing Machine’ interpreted an aria by composer Tom Johnson, written specifically for this occasion.
Composer Jasna Veličković presented her instrument, ‘the Velicon’, to manifest ‘other voices’ that are normally inaudible to the human ear. Working with electromagnetic fields, she gave a voice to objects such as adaptors in her ‘Opera of Things’.
franck leibovici presented an operatic ‘love song’ of breathing, silences and whispers as an exercise in wordless amorous communication.
Adam Basanta’s interactive kinetic sculpture offered the audience the classic romantic encounter from both opera and cinema.
Mercedes Azpilicueta and John Bingham-Hall investigated the acoustic properties of Rotterdam’s urban environment. Together with professional and non-professional singers, they explored how particular architectural settings influence how people can or cannot let their voice be heard in public.
Paul Elliman’s ‘Sirens’ stretched the limits of vocalisation. He made human voices mimic the allarming sound of various sirens, and resonate with their message of power and authority.
Janneke van der Putten’s ‘Solo Acoustic Performance’ challenged the capacities of her singing body.
Together with three musicians Katarina Zdjelar explored how a multiplicity of voices can coexist. The resulting work was an improvisational interpretation of the striking text ‘Europe, Where Have You Misplaced Love?’ by Swedish poet Athena Farrokhzad.
Questions of nationality, synchronicity and belonging were also tackled in Urok Shirhan’s performance ‘Empty Orchestra’.
Suzanne Walsh’s vocal work ‘BirdbecomeBird’ pointed at inter-species voices and music making.
In Ho Tzu Nyen’s spectacular video installation a ‘ghost choir’ of beings of various origins – mythological creatures, cyborgs, figures from popular imagination – claim and vocalise their humanity.
A participatory workshop, conducted by Geo Wyeth explored the layers within the human voice.
Post-Opera at V2_
As part of Post-Opera, V2_ presented a sound installation by Jan Adriaans. Swarming Chants was inspired by football songs. Adriaans paralleled the opera house to the football stadium, looking at the forces at play in a collective singing experience.
Operadagen Rotterdam symposium
A symposium entitled ‘Installing the Voice’ explored new connections between body and voice in the context of contemporary (post) opera and the visual arts. The event was part of the Operadagen Rotterdam festival.
With thanks to Mondriaan Fund, CBK Rotterdam, Stichting Stokroos, Fonds Podiumkunsten , V2_ , Operadagen Rotterdam. CESEM – Centre for the Study of the Sociology and Aesthetics of Music , NOVA FCSH – NOVA School of Social Sciences and Humanities, Culture Ireland en FCT – Foundation for Science and Technology.